Decision-Making Process: the Who and the When

It’s no secret that the decision step in any sales process is an important step. In fact, according to some experts, it accounts for more than half of why salespeople lose in complex sales. And yet, many salespeople miss the boat on what the decision step entails.


Sure, everyone asks 1. “Are you responsible for making this decision?” (or some variation of “are you the decision-maker?”) and 2. “When would you like to make this decision?”. However, who and when questions are only one third of the questions we should be asking. Additionally, those questions listed above are pretty terrible questions. I’ll be covering who and when in this blog; look for my next two on the remaining questions salespeople need to be asking in the decision step.


Let’s talk the “who” question. (Not the band; although, I’d be willing to write a blog about them too.) What happens if you ask someone directly if they’re solely responsible for making the decision? First of all, the question restated is just “is there anyone around here that is more important than you are that I should talk to instead?”. Not exactly a great bonding and rapport move. However, it is a great way to insult someone’s ego. It’s also why you miss all the “hidden decision makers”. Because when we challenge the ego of others, we’ve given them no choice but to defend it. It’s not their fault. Here are some better questions that will get you the information you want:

  1. Who else in the organization cares about this?
  2. Who else in the organization is affected by this?
  3. Who do you think will say “no” to this potential change?


Now, let’s evaluate the “when” question. If you’ve ever forecasted a deal and that deal didn’t close on the date you set in your CRM, this part is for you. Asking a committee when they are going to make their decision is to ask seven (average number of decision-making committees in larger organizations) different people, with seven different timelines to agree on one date. Oh, and by the way, they aren’t experts in how long it takes to implement your products and services, so they don’t know what that reality actually is. Nor should they. That’s why they have us. We need to help them establish an accurate timeline. You could do it like this:

  1. If today is month/date/year, and you’ve done your due diligence, you finish the RFP, it’s made it through legal, it’s made it through procurement, you have a P.O., and a contract, everything has been shipped, your people have been trained, and now you’re receiving the economic benefit – when do you want that to be?


Once you have the timeline, you need to find out why that’s the timeline they’re working with. More on that in my next blog.



Happy selling.

Emily Shaw 

Emily Shaw

Connect with Emily Shaw

For 25 years, Lushin has guided business leaders toward intentional, predictable growth.

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